Red en­velopes a bless­ing or bur­den?

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWOCENTS - By Elena He Page Edi­tor: li­u­meng@glob­al­ cn

My bestie Ying is planning her wed­ding. As her brides­maid, I’m help­ing her with most of the ar­range­ment, and for the first time, I have started to doubt the ra­tio­nal­ity of giv­ing red en­velopes.

It is cus­tom­ary for guests to share in the happy oc­ca­sion and give a red en­ve­lope to ex­press their good wishes and bless­ings for the new­ly­weds. But as my bestie made her list, she found it dif­fi­cult to de­cide who to in­vite.

“I feel like I am ask­ing them for money,” she said. “It feels ter­ri­ble. I don’t want to owe any­one any­thing.”

She feels it’s ok to ac­cept red en­velopes from close friends but feels em­bar­rassed about tak­ing money from peo­ple she does not feel very close to, hence the dilemma. If she in­vites peo­ple she is not close to, she has to ac­cept their money, and if she doesn’t in­vite them, they might feel dis­re­spected.

Ying and her fi­ancé have been to­gether for years and many of her ac­quain­tances know about their up­com­ing mar­riage: friends, neigh­bors, col­leagues and their bosses. The list is long, and it seems that she has a lot of de­ci­sions to make.

What’s even worse is that Ying wants her wed­ding to be in Septem­ber, but her mother wants it to be held be­fore her re­tire­ment in July. Her mom sees her wed­ding as a chance to re­claim some of the money she spent giv­ing red en­velopes to her ac­quain­tances, their sons or daugh­ters, her ac- quain­tances’ ac­quain­tances and so on.

I just can­not help think­ing how ridicu­lous this whole thing is. The tra­di­tion, once full of sin­cere bless­ings from friends and fam­ily, has some­how be­come an eco­nomic bur­den for both the guests and the or­ga­niz­ers. It’s like a vi­cious cy­cle, push­ing peo­ple to give and take, some­times un­will­ingly.

The red en­ve­lope cus­tom has be­come an ex­cuse to col- lect money and has even given rise to com­pe­ti­tion. When I re­ceive wed­ding in­vi­ta­tions from ac­quain­tances, it is not easy to de­cide how much money I should give. I don’t want to give too much be­cause we are just ca­sual friends, but if I give less than others, it will look bad. Some­times, I end up call­ing around among our com­mon friends to dis­cuss how much money would be suit­able for the red en­ve­lope. The tra­di­tion of giv­ing money at a wed­ding started in the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644). Back then the econ­omy was un­der­de­vel­oped, and fam­i­lies were too poor to pro­vide for new cou­ples. So, their rel­a­tives and friends would give them red en­velopes to sup­port them and boost the start of their life to­gether. Later, when those helpers had their turn­ing point in life, for ex­am­ple, a wed­ding or a fu­neral, the cou­ple would give them money to sup­port them in their time of need. Hence, a cir­cle of mu­tual sup­port came into be­ing. How­ever, the old tra­di­tion seems to have lost its value in mod­ern so­ci­ety. What do you think? Does giv­ing a red en­ve­lope still re­flect the giver’s gen­uine wish to lend sup­port? I find it hard to say.

Il­lus­tra­tions: Luo Xuan/GT

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